Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Submission on the Auckland Spatial Plan June 2011

Firstly I would like to congratulate the Auckland Council for developing such a
comprehensive and forward thinking plan for our city.
1. Transport and Infrastructure
Invest heavily in improving our rail, bus and ferry systems and reduce our investment in
motorways. In this option the Council would prioritize completing the CBD rail loop, a rail
loop to the airport, and a rail link to the North Shore within 15 years.
A road connecting route 20 and the motorway should be expedited to ensure the
efficient and profitable operation of the Ports of Auckland. A rail line from the Port to
Albany should also expedited. This will reduce a considerable number of truck
movements and could be used at off-peak times, which would allow for passenger
services through the north shore.
I believe this is the best option because it will give Aucklanders more transport choices
and make our city more resilient to increasing oil prices. However, I am concerned that
even in this third option the Council is not being ambitious enough.
Given the challenges of climate change, rising oil prices, air pollution and congestion I
believe the Council should also consider:
• changing our land use patterns to enable Aucklanders to make better transport
choices (for example, providing for more local employment, mixed-use zoning,
and removing harmful planning regulations such as minimum parking
requirements that result in huge areas of wasted land and reduce housing
affordability);
• improving the bus network to make it more efficient (for example, by developing a
radial grid of bus services and allowing free transfers from one service to
another);
• making cycling and walking safer and more enjoyable and investing in Travel
Demand Management Programmes to achieve a significant shift to walking and
cycling (e.g., 50% of trips by foot and cycle by 2040).
2. Environment
I support strongly the Council ensuring that Auckland become an eco city and also a fairtrade
city. I am also in favour of the Council's aim to create a network of wildlife
corridors across the city, enhance our parks and open spaces, protect streams and
harbours from further pollution, and reduce our waste to landfill by 40% through gaining
more control over the waste stream The Manukau Harbour should become a marine
park.
I also encourage the Council to consider the benefit to the city environment of
encouraging more local food production (e.g., through community gardens, school
gardens, protecting rural land for environmentally responsible farming, etc.). In rural
areas one effective way for the Council to protect water quality would be to encourage
more nutrient budgeting (to avoid over-fertilizing) and more riparian planting.
3. Climate Change
The Council has set an aspirational target of reducing Auckland's greenhouse gas
emissions by 40% by 2025. I support this and also encourage the Council to set a longterm
target of reducing our emissions by 90% by 2050.
I would also like to see the Council provide in their spatial plan a clear and detailed
outline of how they would implement both targets. To achieve this, the Council should
consider major investment in sustainable transport infrastructure and the use of more
renewables to meet energy demand.
I believe the spatial plan should provide more detail on what the likely impacts of
unchecked climate change will be over the next 30 years in terms of sea-level rise,
flooding, and extreme weather events, and how the Council plans to adapt to these.
I would urge the Council to set plans in place for short and long term goals for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions and outline clearly how they will achieve both.
4. Housing
Auckland's housing is already under huge pressure and migration will increase this
problem. The Government has suggested that the best way to reduce house prices in
Auckland is to allow the city to sprawl outwards. However, low density, sprawling
development requires people to travel long distances, which is costly in many ways, and
requires expensive infrastructure such as roads, waste, water and electricity. It doesn't
stack up economically or environmentally.
The Council has a strong focus in their discussion document on maintaining a compact
urban form for Auckland. They also aim to improve housing affordability through
measures such as making it easier for developers to build more medium intensity
housing (e.g., terraced houses, duplexes, units) and working with the Government to
redevelop Council housing more intensively.
I believe that some key other ways the Council could act to improve housing affordability
are:
• change their parking regulations so that, rather than requiring new developments
to provide a certain minimum number of parks (as regulations currently do), allow
parking to be shared between a number of buildings and uses, and encourage
direct pricing of parking when demand is high. This will lead to much less land
being wasted on unproductive uses and encourage sustainable travel;
• work to involve more third sector (e.g., not for profit) organizations in building
affordable housing, providing long-term rental housing and in developing
alternative ownership and funding models to facilitate security of tenure for both
owners and renters;
• ensure that when they do identify land outside the city boundary for redevelopment
that these developments are centred on major public transport links
(e.g., the Western rail line, the Southern rail line, the Northern Express busway)
and that the public transport is provided before the development is occupied by
residents. Massey and Favona are lessons to lean about how not do things;
• lobby the Government to build more intensive state housing in Auckland,
redevelop current state housing sites more intensively and to introduce a capital
gains tax on properties (excluding the family home);
• provide incentives for brownfield redevelopments rather than greenfield, to
balance out the higher economic risk profile for developers involved in the
former;
• take action to prevent inappropriate developments occurring on the fringes of the
Auckland region that will occupy valuable rural land and encourage individuals to
commute long distances to work. A good example of this is the proposed
Stevenson's Business Park development in Drury which the Council should
oppose;
• I support the Council plan to maintain the compact urban plan.
5. Urban Design
The Council has placed a strong emphasis in their spatial plan on improving the built
environment of Auckland and ensuring good urban design. I believe this is a positive
step forward. I support the Council's proposals to:
• protect the heritage buildings along our main streets . Ponsonby and Parnell
Roads are examples of streets that should be protected . Not only do residents
enjoy them but thousands of tourists walk these streets to look at and photograph
these buildings and streetscapes;
• residential one protections should be maintained throughout our heritage suburbs
and communities.
I have worked in excess of 35 years of my life in hospitality and tourism. My experiences
have also been international and taken me through Western Europe, the United
Kingdom, Asia, some of the United States, Argentina Uruguay and Chile. I spend
considerable time within New Zealand and Australia and I holiday in the Pacific Islands.
In all of these localities and countries I have taken part in cultural and heritage activities.
Since I established the first quality boutique inn within Auckland at Ponsonby in 1994
and also have guided historical walks in Auckland, I am well qualified to speak of the
economic value that heritage and culture, including neighbourhoods communities and
individual buildings, add to the visitor experience and their contribution to the local and
national economy.
To take a broad brush approach that allows a holus bolus approach to our housing stock
within the proposed changes will destroy the fabric of Auckland. The laissez-faire
approach that allows billboards to cover over and obstruct heritage buildings devalues
the not only the building but the street appeal. This is already devaluing the visitor
experience in to Auckland. Since we are unable to achieve agreement on something as
basic as this, how if we liberalise the zoning changes as sought by our three lawyers will
we resolve the bastardization of our individual buildings and neighbourhoods?
The high spending interactive tourists that Tourism New Zealand targets have a strong
interest in culture and heritage including buildings. How long they choose to stay and
consequently spend in a town will depend on what they see and can do. This is no
secret. All over the world communities protect these assets because they know the
intrinsic economic value of keeping them intact.
I refer now to some examples in New Zealand. Oamaru has used their buildings and
colourful social history to promote their region’s economic activity and employment.
Mayor Foon in Gisborne is using a natural disaster to reinstate Victorian buildings.
Hawera knocked down the home of Ronald Hugh Morrison and have suffered .These
few examples, but not limited to them, show that New Zealanders know the value of
buildings and visit places to soak up the culture.
Many New Zealanders visit the Surrey Hills and the Rocks in Sidney on their first O.E.
Perhaps later on they will visit the old town In Stockholm or listed towns as diverse as
Bath in England and Plockton in Scotland.
Thousands of towns and cities throughout the world can be listed where they have
strong heritage and town planning laws.
A major reason why they have decided to do this purely economic. They know how
much their existence is dependent on the experience the visitor has in their community,
and, again, heritage buildings are crucial.
One of the best examples I can offer, as it close by, is Tasmania. Launceston in the
north of the state in the 1960s allowed a permissive rule change and the town lost much
of its heritage building stock and the visitors stopped coming.
Hobart, the capital in the south, maintained tight planning and building rules and
flourished. When they woke up in 1985, Launceston had a change of heart and brought
building and town planning regulations back in. The consensus is that it was too late to
amend the rules and the damage done.
Auckland can avoid the mistakes and learn from this positive leadership in cities around
the globe.
To pay for our infrastructure needs, not to mention the jobs that are dependent on
tourism, we need every decent attraction we have. Our housing and neighbourhoods
and what we do with them will have a direct impact on our future.
Below are some suggestions that I support which can be done to ensure that we get the
best outcomes for our neighbourhoods:
• identify a hierarchy of town centres which will help to guide appropriate levels of
development in each area, recognising that one approach does not “fit all”;
• remove barriers to the redevelopment and rejuvenation of local “mainstreet”
centres, so that local residents can have their needs met within walkabale
distances;
• discourage the development of new “megamalls”, or the expansion of existing
malls, as they undermine local shops;
• introduce minimum sustainability criteria for new buildings;
• ensure that major buildings and developments are reviewed by an Urban Design
Panel;
• require resource consents to include a design sheet outlining minimum standards
for sustainable design criteria;
• make streets into public spaces that are used for recreation, rather than just for
transit, through good design, public art, more use of shared space, and speed
reductions and other traffic calming measures;
• incentivise the development of grid street and pathway networks to make travel
by foot and cycle more attractive;
• increase access for disabled persons;
• preserve our built heritage, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites through
creating a well-integrated Heritage Plan, and giving it appropriate status to
ensure a high level of protection;
• introduce "redevelopment" authorities which would mean that major sites could
be developed to a very high standard of urban design.
6. Caring for People and Building Strong Communities
The Council plan places a strong priority on improving the well-being of children,
reducing inequality and building strong, inclusive communities that value ethnic diversity
and are accessible to the disabled.
I support these, and particularly commend the Council's goals around reducing
inequality. Auckland has greater disparities between the poor and wealthy than any
other city in New Zealand. International research shows that income inequality leads to
other poor social outcomes that affect everyone - such as increased rates of child abuse,
obesity, mental illness and crime. By taking measures to reduce inequality the Council
may well also improve the well-being of children living in Auckland. While many
measures to reduce inequality are not the responsibility of local government, one
important way the Council can help to reduce inequality is by increasing the supply of
high quality, affordable housing. This will reduce over-crowding, facilitate better long
term engagement with education and health services, and make it easier for low-income
Aucklanders to live with dignity.